Tomorrow, the Canucks will play hockey for real, OK not “for real” for real but the scrimmages will be full-length and if a big hit breaks out they won’t feel sorry for the guy they just hit. This season will look like nothing most Canucks fans have seen before or for the pre-millennial crowd, a long, long time.
Start with no more Sedins which will be probably the most noticeable thing in the next few weeks. I mean, they haven’t had a season without the Twins since 1999. For the math illiterate out there, that’s a long time. Add to that, fan-favourite Thomas Vanek is gone after a brief stint with the Canucks so the goals will be tougher to find than Waldo on the last page of his books (you know the one with ALL the Waldos?).
However, this season breathes new life into an organization that has struggled to tread water for the last five seasons. This year, Brock Boeser gets to prove how elite he can be, Bo Horvat will further prove why he is the heir-apparent to the “C” that is no longer stitched on a Canucks jersey and the man they call Elias Pettersson is finally ready to show everyone in the NHL why he was an absolute steal at #5 in the 2017 NHL Draft.
We could stop right there and focus on those stories alone and it would already be a juicy read but believe it or not, some of the stories that have carried on for the last few seasons will come to a head this fall.
There hasn’t been anything written by the ol’ 94 for about five months so I bring to you my Top-5 players to follow for the upcoming 2018/19 Canucks season. In no particular order, here they are:
Last season wasn’t a memorable one for Stecher. He barely had his legs about him and went down with a knee injury in late October that sidelined him for six weeks. Injuries on the Canucks defense go together like peanut butter and jelly. He had a great start to his career two seasons ago when he signed out of college and put up 3G and 21A, 8PPP and played 71 games.
The injury made it tough to get back that push he had and Stecher struggled to contribute and regressed to 1G and 10A while playing only three fewer games. This season will hopefully be a bounce-back year for Troy and if the rest of the Canucks defense is healthy, consistency on the back end could lead to more goals.
Stecher likes to make plays happen so seeing him return to form would be a welcome sight for the Canucks.
Ben Hutton is back and he’s ready to make a difference. He took on a new training regiment this offseason in Ontario with Claude Giroux and looks fit to #compete. When Hutton exited last season he looked sluggish and was healthy-scratched more than 10 times. Travis Green made an example of Hutton and many Canucks fans wondered if Hutton would get traded if he wasn’t going to be used.
Thankfully, there wasn’t a market for him and he’s back and in great shape. The happy-go-lucky defender was only two seasons removed from being the top defenseman on the team before tanking his abilities in a somewhat forgettable season for many Canucks. He’ll look to once again be a top-performer in Vancouver and if he is, he could see himself lining up beside future-Canucks star Quinn Hughes one season from now.
Hutton can make plays and has proven he belongs so his story will be one of the most intriguing.
If there was one last thing we can all be thankful to Alex Burrows for it was the trade clause he was willing to waive when Dahlen came back to the Canucks in return for Burrows. Dahlen had quite the season in the Allsvenskan last year after falling ill to Mono during Canucks training camp a season ago. He helped his Swedish club Timra IK get promoted to the SHL, he won the league’s top scorer title and was named MVP. Not bad at all.
But that was then and in Penticton, at the Young Stars tournament (it’s not really a tournament anymore) he instantly clicked with linemates Kole Lind and fellow Swede Elias Pettersson. Check out this goal:
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) September 8, 2018
He may not start with the Canucks but that doesn’t mean he won’t be one of the first call-ups when the injury bug hits. Dahlen has head-turning talent and the ability to be a difference maker. The pairing of Pettersson/Dahlen may not come to fruition right away but adding another scoring winger to a team that will be in heavy demand for goals is just one more reason the Canucks may not be as bad as the critics say.
Petrus Palmu has an opportunity right away to earn a spot on opening night. It’s a long-shot right now but after Antoine Roussel suffered a concussion prior to training camp, the feisty winger will bring literal meaning to “bang for your buck”. Palmu was in the thick of it during Young Stars and he doesn’t believe his size hampers his abilities to be a successful NHLer. The towering enforcer is no longer the norm and the new NHL is about speed and skill.
Palmu will need to make an impact before the calendar turns to October but he could find a home on the Canucks 4th line and at the very least pop in every few games to bring a bit more energy to the lineup. Lining up with Jake Virtanen might not be a terrible idea, either.
Time will tell.
This might seem crazy but Loui Eriksson could very well have a season that makes everyone forget how unbelievably awful he’s been since donning a Canucks jersey two summers ago. There have been articles written by Canucks Army like this one and this one that stated Eriksson wasn’t as bad as he looked and just imagine for a second that Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser are on his line and wait for it, they click!
There have been tons of players that have dropped off the radar only to rebound and make a name for themselves. Martin St. Louis was basically a write-off in Calgary before going to Tampa Bay and becoming a Hall of Famer. Taylor Hall also hit a rut in his career in Edmonton before turning it around once more in New Jersey.
Just so we’re all clear, in no way am I saying Martin St. Louis and Taylor Hall are great comparisons to the snake-bitten Swede Loui Eriksson, I’m simply stating rebounds are possible with the right fit.
Eriksson was brought in to score “all the goals”and he hasn’t even scored some of them but if he isn’t the target for criticism and can go back to being what he was in Dallas, the Canucks might just get four years of Loui that don’t make everyone cringe when he has the puck.
I’d love to see Eriksson take on more of a Todd Bertuzzi-like role where he drives the net and gets the dirty stuff in the crease. Maybe the reinvention of Loui Eriksson is the thing the Canucks can create?
Obviously, there are many more intriguing storylines going into the season but the players above will be just a few reasons the Canucks could move the needle back to relevancy.